Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Dissolution Of Uniabuja Governing Council

A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed the suit filed by members of the 9th Governing Council of the University of Abuja (UniAbuja) challenging the council’s dissolution.

In a judgment on Tuesday, July 9, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that the suit filed by the affected UniAbuja Governing Council members was instituted outside the three months allowed for the challenge of decisions by public officers under the Public Officers’ Protection Act (POPA) 2004.

The judgment was on a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/683/2024 filed by member of the dissolved UniAbuja Governing Council led by Professor Saint Gbilekaa.

Listed with Prof Gbilekaa as plaintiffs were: Edmund Nwanna, Sunday Ejaro, Kasim Umar, Wesley Nafarda (all Professors) and Dr. Uju Patrick.

The defendants were the Vice Chancellor, University of Abuja, the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the National Universities Commission (NUC).

The plaintiffs had, among others faulted the dissolution of the 9th UniAbuja Governing Council which, they claimed was inaugurated on July 15,2021 for a four-year tenure, which was to lapse on July 15, 2025.

They stated that they were surprised when, on July 22, 2023, the NUC, allegedly acting on the directive of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, issued a notice for the dissolution of the boards of all Fed Govt’s agencies and parastatals, including the Governing Council of federal universities.

The plaintiffs argued that the decision of the Vice Chancellor of UniAbuja to give effect to the NUC notice issued pursuant to the directive of the President, and subsequently called for fresh election to replace them was unlawful.

Justice Ekwo, in his judgment on Tuesday, upheld the objection raised by the defendant, to the effect that the suit was statute barred.

The judge noted that, while the cause of action (the decision complained about) arose on June 22, 2023, the plaintiffs instituted their case on May 22, 2024, outside the three months allowed under the POPA 2004.

He faulted the contention by plaintiffs’ lawyer, Maxwell Opara that they defendants ought to prove that the plaintiffs were out of time by producing evidence of the presidential directive for the dissolution of the boards of federal agencies , including universities’ Governing Councils.

Justice Ekwo held: “It is the case of the plaintiffs that the Governing Council (of UniAbuja) was dissolved on 22nd June 2023 and, by the originating process before me, this case was commenced on 22nd May, 2024. 

“I find that the cause of action in this case accrued on 22nd June 2023 when the Governing Council of the University of Abuja was dissolved.

“This means that this action was not commenced within three months stipulated by law. 

“It my opinion that this action was taken after the period allowed by the POPA 2004 had lapsed.

“As it is , I find that the right of action of the plaintiffs, by not bringing this action within the time prescribed, has been extinguished by virtue of the statute bar in Section 2 (a) of the Public Officers’ Protection Act (POPA) 2004. I so hold.

“The proper order to make where a matter has been found to be statute barred has been established in a plethora of authorities.

“Having found that upon the Governing Council being dissolved on 22nd  June 2023, which is the date the cause of action accrued for the plaintiffs and, this case was commenced on 22nd May, 2024 outside the period prescribed by the POPA 2004, this matter is statute barred, and must end at this point, and it ought to be dismissed. 

“I thereby make an Order dismissing this suit for being statute barred. This is the order of this court,” Justice Ekwo said.


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